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5 Step Plan for Creating Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation is defined as the adoption of technology to improve processes and productivity, deliver better customer and employee experiences, manage business risk, and control costs.   For many small businesses this is starts with basic accounting software.

Customer Ledger Card

In accounting, people used to manually post a sale to a customer ledger card (a physical piece of paper) and then enter the accounting for that sale onto a general ledger (often a 14-column piece of paper). Computers completely automated all of that manual data capture and re-entry by accountants

14 Column Ledger

Simply taking hand-written invoices and entering them into a spreadsheet could be considered digital transformation by definition, but there is so much more you can do!  Once you have established yourself as a growing business it is time to get some good business management software.  This often starts with Sage50 or QuickBooks.  Most accountants use these two packages and can help you set them up so you can grow your business faster.

If your business is more established and wants to grow to the next level a complete business management system that provides a complete view of the business is the next step:

  • Prospecting leading to quote, order, deliver, invoice and collection processes
  • Sourcing of materials including purchase quotation, order, receipt of goods through payment processes
  • Inventory management including location tracking, cycle counting, landed costs and bar code management
  • Project or job costing with estimation and revenue recognition
  • Manufacturing operations including kitting, assembly, engineer and make to order or process manufacturing

Although entry level systems may have many of these functions, few have the tools for automation, integration and work flows that digitize our business. Programs like SAP Distribution Start and Grow enable affordable adoption of powerful business technology.

The I-BN five step process is designed for smaller businesses that plan to digitally transform their business to drive growth.

Step 1 – Define Your Strategy

In order to grow, you have to have a strategy.  We recommend starting with your existing customers and ask them why they chose you.   Knowing the why helps your business define one or more “value propositions” that differentiate you from your competition. Digital Transformation is a technology drive process improvement approach with a laser focus on customer experience and satisfaction. Your strategy must be unique to your business.

Once you know your “why,” then focus on “how you will grow.  It can be adding more products and services, increasing geographical coverage, hiring sales people, looking for competitors dissatisfied customers, etc.  A common digital strategy is opening a webstore.   Even if you are not a distributor, a webstore is a salesperson for your business and can sell replacement parts, branded t-shirts, or be used to book appointments.

Step 2 – Establish Your Cloud Platform

Everyone is in the cloud today and so your business should be there too!  The likelihood is that you are there already with mail, collaboration, payroll or other functions. Our blog On-Premise vs. Cloud Computing – Pros and Cons, provides insights on how to choose the best platform based upon business outcomes.

Digital transformation does not have to be an all-in approach to technology, but a journey to a destination. 3 Considerations When Contemplating a Cloud Migration reviews some of the questions we ask when advising clients. Because each strategy is different, the reasons for selecting and the ultimate choice of a cloud platform is also unique to each business.

  • Back office operations are often the largest headache for running an organization and unless you are an IT professional, outsourcing to the cloud is a no-brainer!
  • Cloud saves time and money, and help your team work together better.  Not only can you run your business management systems in the cloud, but your forms, product specifications and other documents are more easily accessed from the cloud than your office, especially as your team grows. 
  • A professionally managed cloud is more secure than a server or laptop sitting in your office. 
  • Cloud platforms have tools for connecting to other cloud platforms or on-premise environments. These tools can connect and automate processes with customers, suppliers and other business partners.

The question is really not if, but how you will be in the cloud. We advise companies to establish a cloud platform based upon business objectives with a plan as part of a Digital Transformation strategy. .

Step 3 – Build Your Web Presence

People buy from people, but they find and research them on the web.  Depending upon your industry this can start with a Facebook page, an Instagram account or a new website.  These tools all work together and help drive business to you.  Websites may have started as online brochures but have become much more central to business operations.   In addition to providing information, they gather information on what interest’s customers and can truly drive new business.

Web stores are easily integrated into your main web page, or if you are product oriented could become your entire website.  Whether it is an online store, a scheduling system, or simple forms for requesting more information to solve specific problems websites are often your #1 salesperson.

Step 4- Plan to Build Your Team

If you are going to grow, you will need more people.  Depending upon the strategy from Step 1, you may need sales people first, or if you are the rainmaker, it may be people to do the work.  Finding good people is always a challenge, so planning ahead will make certain your customers are serviced properly and become your biggest fans.

There are many online tools for finding people or hiring contractors.  Using these digital tools may not be transforming your business internally, but are great examples of how the job market has moved from the help wanted page in the newspaper online. 

Step 5 – Automate Everything

By using a digital strategy, you can reduce the number of people required.  Digital transformation is all about creating efficiency through automation!  Human error is inevitable, especially if people are keying and re-keying data into multiple systems.  

  • Business Management Systems If you are taking more than 50 orders per month on your web-store, the time for automation is now! 
  • Why download bank statements and reconcile on paper when you can automate it.
  • Recurring transactions should be automated.
  • Invoices keyed once, sent online and collected via credit card with the push of a single button!

If you ship goods, USPS, UPS and FedEx integration are common.  Online Etsy, eBay and Amazon stores can all be automated. Although automating everything is the goal, we recommend phasing automation as volume grows, focusing on higher volume transactions!

Putting it all Together

No two digital transformation journeys are the same.  Driven by your vision, strategy and a flexible cloud platform, digital transformation can create explosive growth with amazing profitability.  Our solution partners have developed packages or industry-based solutions to help accelerate the pace of digital transformation. A sample of our partners includes:

For more information about how I-BN can help you on your Digital Transformation Journey,

We look forward to partnering with your on your Digital Transformation Journey!

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